The Rise Of Shadow IT - InformationWeek
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Alistair Croll
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The Rise Of Shadow IT

When the business wants change so much that it's willing to go rogue on IT, is it misinformed, or justified? Consider this advice, CIOs.

Part One: IT Is from Mars, Business Is from Venus

We've moved from a world of scarce IT--where organizations guard their technology--to one of abundance, where technology permeates every part of our daily lives.

But the enterprise IT team is still acting like IT is a scarce, precious resource. They're charged with protecting and controlling its use, reducing risk; while the world of clouds, startups, and innovation focuses on its abundance, maximizing its rewards.

Once, IT was protected. And with good reason: computers cost millions, broke easily, and represented a vast barrier to entry. Companies competed based on their ability to corral capital, infrastructure, and labor--to control the means of production.

[ For more cloud computing analysis, see Top 12 Cloud Trends Of 2012. ]

Today, however, industry after industry is being disrupted by startups that see these once-daunting barriers to entry as crumbling castle walls. The line of business wants to innovate, and central IT is facing an internal revolt: Shadow IT. We can track the rise of shadow IT to three things: the personal computer; data carriers; and software-as-a-service.

When the first home spreadsheet came out, early adopters found ways to use it. But unlike central IT, which could be tightly controlled, clients had little to stop employees from going rogue. Visicalc was the first assault on the walls of central IT; the rise of the Web only made things worse. Despite every attempt to lock down desktops, employees found ways to use their own tools.

A second flank of the assault happened when salespeople, eager for an edge on their quarterly targets, embraced two-way pagers. The Blackberry was a rogue device, but the political capital of its users made it impossible for IT to refuse them outright.

But it was software-as-a-service that really hammered the nails into the coffin of centralization. Not only were SaaS sites pay-as-you-go, but they were trivially easy to deploy and configure. Departments started circumventing IT for everything from CRM to web analytics, performance monitoring, expense management, invoicing, and more.

Every organization has an immune system. Enterprise IT has been particularly well entrenched, because to them, change is bad. Change is the leading cause of outages and downtime, so it is to be avoided.

But to the line of business, change is good. Without change, things stagnate, and competitors get the upper hand. The tension between innovation and operation was almost unbearable. And the rise of cloud computing was the crack that broke open the dam.

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User Rank: Apprentice
8/1/2012 | 12:39:13 AM
re: The Rise Of Shadow IT
Shadow IT problem or opportunity is all about barriers of entry. It is easier than ever before to use IT for strategic advantage. In this new context, (as indicated above, i.e. "building a set of services they can embrace") IT needs to provide access to platforms, tools and solutions that the business-side can customize and use. Too easy to go rogue. But success can be amplified if IT supports, not fights the trend. --Paul Calento
User Rank: Apprentice
7/19/2012 | 5:55:44 PM
re: The Rise Of Shadow IT
"Shadow IT" has been around since the late '80s. Picture the impatient sales or marketing LOB executive who needed a mission-critical, customized system and rejected the timeframe given by his/her IT department. In the days when mainframes ruled, this rogue LOB engaged non-mainframe, turnkey software application vendors. He licensed their products and had them installed/implemented by consultants. If the system worked, then the IT department subsequently had to support the non-mainframe platform. By the mid '90s, mainframe-only shops were the minority and the mixed (mainframe and distributed) environment redefined enterprise computing. Today, we can add Cloud computing to the list of varied computing environments.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2012 | 9:21:01 PM
re: The Rise Of Shadow IT
IT Asset Managers are responsible for the ITAM Program's processes that bring these two parties and approaches together to ensure the most value from the organization's IT investment. The IT Asset Manager is part technologist, part business person and adept to bringing people together for strategic as well as tactical initiatives. When the executives own the ITAM Program, organizations have found amazing savings and increases in productivity. The problem mainly lies with the knowledge and interests as you pointed out and the chasm that exists between the two parties. Silos exist for a healthy purpose and but programs are needed to span those silos. ITAM is the horizontal integration of each silosG«÷ vested interests for the purpose of reaching a decision that benefits the organizationG«÷s mission. If you'd like to learn more about what ITAM is, please feel free to visit us at We've been certifying individuals worldwide for over ten years.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2012 | 7:05:55 PM
re: The Rise Of Shadow IT
Very good read--thank you.

At some point, the bottom-up IT people and the top-down business people meet in the middle. Who is the translator? Someone still needs to understand both the business need of a database that does x and y, and the capabilities of the databases IT can provide within a reasonable time and for a reasonable cost. In companies that sell to "shadow IT," these people are called "sales engineers." Who is their counterpart in the IT organization? Does this go beyond business analysts? Isn't it they whose job it is to do requirements gathering and working with the PMO to get the requested service delivered in the way the organization wants it?
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